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455 To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, on or about Saturday, 23 August 1884.

No. 455 (Brieven 1990 486, Complete Letters 355b)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Saturday, 23 August 1884

Source status
Original manuscript

Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b388 V/1962

This letter was previously dated ‘early February 1885’, but it was probably written shortly after Theo left Nuenen in August 1884 (cf. letter 453, Date). Theo might, ‘arriving home, have found another note’ from Vincent (ll. 2-3). This ‘note’, which must therefore have been written towards the end of Theo’s stay in Nuenen, is not known. The present letter was in any event written before September (see n. 2) and because it is probably the one Mr van Gogh warned Theo about on 22 August (in other words well after Theo had left): ‘You will probably also receive a letter from V. I pray you don’t attach too much to it’ (FR b2256), we have dated this letter on or about Saturday, 23 August 1884.

Ongoing topic
Theo’s visit to Nuenen (451)

original text
Waarde Theo,
t’huis komende kunt ge nog een briefje1 van me gevonden hebben. Doch als ik daarin toen U verzocht terug te nemen een & ander wat ge zeidet,2 zoo vraag ik U dat nu niet eens meer.–
Want zelfs indien ge zeggen zoudt ge er anders over waart gaan denken, zou ik het toch niet gelooven kunnen, daar ik geloof ge nu eenmaal definitief zoo zijt – en niet ligt daar vooreerst meer van afgaan kunt. Over jaren praten we over zulke kwesties misschien heel anders doch waarschijnlijk ook dan niet eens.–
Vooreerst hebben we m.i. er zeker niet op terug te komen.
Wat ge volgende maand méér zoudt zenden dan frs 100 zoudt ge terugkrijgen, zend dus frs 100 (waarop in gevolge onzer afspraak ik voorloopig blijf rekenen) doch niet meer.
En ’t zal mijn streven zijn iets anders ook daarvoor in de plaats te vinden en op den duur zal mij dat wel lukken.


Meen als je blieft niet ik niet zou willen goede vrienden blijven – doch ’t ligt hier in den aard der zaak dat het niet kan, al zou men ’t probeeren ’t toch niet zou opgaan. enfin ’t is een geval waar geen mensch veel aan zou kunnen doen.– Uw karakter geloof ik nu dat in een vaste plooi zich heeft gezet – ’t mijne ook –3 – en de rigtingen loopen niet evenwijdig. ’k neem U eigentlijk ook niets bepaald kwalijk – misschien gij mij ook niet – doch om door te gaan als waren we eensgezind zouden we lui als Monsieur Joseph Prudhomme van Monnier moeten wezen, en ik althans pas daar voor.4 en ik hoop voor U – gij ook – ik trek ’t me verder ook niet meer aan ook.–

My dear Theo,
Arriving home, you may have found another note1 from me. But while I asked you in it then to take back one thing and another that you said,2 I don’t ask it of you any more.
Because even if you were to say that you’d started to think differently about it, I still wouldn’t be able to believe it, since I believe that you’re just definitely like that — and can’t easily retreat from it for the time being. We may perhaps talk about such issues very differently years from now, but probably not even then.
For the time being, in my view, we certainly don’t have to revert to it.
You would get back anything more than 100 francs that you might send next month, so send 100 francs (on which I’ll continue to rely for now, in accordance with our agreement), but no more.  1v:2
And it will be my endeavour to find something to replace that, too, and eventually I’ll succeed.


Please don’t think that I don’t want to remain good friends — but here it’s in the nature of the thing that it’s not possible; even if one were to try it, it still wouldn’t work. Anyway, it’s a situation that no one could do much about. I believe that your character has now set in a permanent mould — mine too3 — and the directions do not run parallel. I actually don’t take anything particularly amiss of you — perhaps you don’t of me either — but to go on as if we were in accord we’d have to be people like Monnier’s Monsieur Joseph Prudhomme, and I at least refuse to be that,4 and I hope for your sake — you do too — and I’m not going to take it to heart any longer, either.
1. This letter is not known; it is clear from a later reference in letter 473 of about Saturday, 6 December 1884 that in it Vincent had criticized Theo’s attitude in trenchant and unequivocal terms.
2. The brothers must have talked about Theo’s financial support during his visit. Vincent returns to this in the present letter and later talks about the allowance for ‘next month’, saying that it should not be for more than 100 francs. In fact Theo still sent 150 francs – not 100 – at the beginning of September (see letter 456).
3. Mr van Gogh tried to reassure Theo somewhat, and wrote on 22 August: ‘You will probably also receive a letter from V. I pray you don’t attach too much to it. He is evidently not well and I should think feverish and consequently too easily excited. I would ask you to keep calm, in the face of what could disrupt calm! He is very touchy or overwrought. Just let some time pass and consider the possibility conceivable that it is not entirely his own fault. We have seen it more in him. He is overwrought, whether it is related to other things – I should almost think it is. Certainly he’s not well and the strain of going backwards and forwards to Mr Hermans in the heat and talking about that work may also be part of it. It will have to be overcome by time, and calm is necessary. So let us remain as kind as possible and may God give what we cannot give. It is sad and unhappy, so much for himself, for he has no peace. We hope for higher help ... We also think about you, that this suffering also afflicts you, who actually seeks your joy in relieving the cares of another. We know that you do this and are grateful for it’ (FR b2256).
4. See for the character of the petit bourgeois Joseph Prudhomme in Monnier’s Mémoires de Monsieur Joseph Prudhomme: letter 296, n. 3.